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The Final Steps Preparing for the SAT

You're taking the SAT soon. You've done your prep work and you've got your calculator. What else can you do to prepare to take the test? In addition to studying and making sure your knowledge is up to snuff for the standardized test, you also need to prepare mentally and physically for the testing conditions themselves. All the vocabulary and calculator tricks in the world won't help if you can't focus on the test itself. Here are some tried and true test taking tips to ensure that you give the SAT your best shot: 

Pre-Test Day
Get some sleep two nights before the test
Everyone knows well rested students perform better on tests. What a lot of people don't know is that research has shown you draw energy from two nights before. When you pull an all nighter (which you should never do), you typically feel fine the next day, but it catches up with you on the second day. This is because your body is trying to gather energy from the night when you didn't sleep.  If you're taking the SAT on a Saturday, make sure you get to bed at a reasonable time both Thursday and Friday night. Try to give yourself between 8 and 10 hours of sleep.  

Limit screen time
Playing on your phone, tablet, or laptop before bed can mess with the way your brain prepares for sleep. I'm not telling you to do something drastic and get rid of your cell for the duration of your prep time, but to get those two good nights of sleep I suggest trying to keep screen time before bed down to less than 30 minutes. (Less than 10 is even better!) Save your tweets and snaps for in the morning. Get your beauty rest!! 

Drink LOTS of water
The day before the test is the perfect time to HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! Your body is 70% water, give it what it needs to function properly. Doing this the day before keeps you from making a million trips to the restroom during the timed test. Also try to steer clear of excessive amounts of caffeinated and sugary beverages as they contribute to dehydration.  

Avoid dehydrating activities
Try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. You're drinking all that water for a reason, don't lose it to fatiguing activities such as strenuous activities and staying out in the sun all day. 

Eat well
Along with staying ultra hydrated, try to eat well the day before your test. Eating a lot of carbs and greasy foods can slow down your body. Try fresh fruits and veggies. Not a fan of vegetables? No problem. Just try to limit how much junk food you eat the day before.  

Test Day
Eat something
There is a lot of talk about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, which is true, but forcing yourself to eat when you don't usually or earlier than you normally eat is a recipe for a stomachache. You know your body best. If you don't usually eat breakfast try something small and light like a cup of yogurt or maybe a banana.  

Steer clear of massive amounts of bread for breakfast before your test. Carbs are hard to digest and tend to make you sleepy. Also avoid super sugary cereals, the sugar rush will leave and you'll be snoozing through your test. A couple pieces of toast won't hurt, but try to stay away from several waffles or pancakes with lots of syrup.  

Bring light snacks and water
Again, you don't want something heavy that will steal blood away from your brain during the test. My personal favorite test snack is apple slices with a little bit of lemon juice drizzled over them. During the test, you can slip a single slice out of the bag, munch on it, and then get back to your test. The lemon juice gives a little zip of flavor and helps keep the apple from turning brown. Nuts are another great snack item. Keep in mind that you're being timed. You want snacks that you can access, eat, and put away quickly.  

Remember to pace yourself on how much water you're drinking. You don't want to have to leave the test while it's still being timed because you drank your water too quickly.  

Remember to BREATHE
If you feel yourself entering PANIC MODE or you get flustered by a question, don't fret. Set your pencil down. Sit back. Take a deep breath. This will help reset your brain to handle the question. After your deep breath, pick up your pencil and read the question again. You've done your prep work. You know your stuff. Don't psyche yourself out. You've got this!
Kelsey W
Experienced Psychology and Literature Tutor
University of Dallas
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